Accents

If you learn a new language as an adult, or if you learn it as a child from non-native speakers, you will have an accent. There is a scientifically proven reason behind this. Each language has phonemes (basic sound units) specific to it. You can discern only those phonemes that you are exposed to as a baby. By the time you are about eight months old, it is already too late for your brain to pick up new phonemes. Without the complete set of phonemes of a language, an accent, however slight, is unavoidable.

Anda mungkin tertanya-tanya bagaimana mereka mengetahui perkara seperti itu,,en,Bagaimana mereka tahu bahawa umur pemotongan adalah lapan bulan,,en,mereka melakukan eksperimen pada bayi Jepun dari pelbagai peringkat usia,,en,mendedahkan mereka dengan bunyi Inggeris R dan L,,en,Bayi yang berumur kurang dari lapan bulan akan menunjukkan pengecaman ketika suaranya ditukar,,en,Bayi yang lebih tua dari itu tidak akan,,en,Kerana kurangnya pendedahan mereka,,en,mereka pekak secara fungsional terhadap perbezaan antara bunyi R dan L,,en,Sekali di,,en,CLEO,,en,Kerjasama CLEO,,en,Cornell,,en,Saya bercakap dengan pelatih Jepun-Amerika ini semasa percubaan kami,,en,Anak ini,,en,tidak mempunyai loghat,,en,maksudnya dia mempunyai loghat Amerika,,en,Kami membincangkan rakan sekerja Jepun yang sangat hebat dan pintar,,en,yang memang mempunyai loghat,,en. How do they know that the cutoff age is eight months? Well, they did some experiment on Japanese babies of various ages, exposing them to the English sounds R and L. Babies younger than eight months would show recognition when the sound is switched. Babies older than that wouldn’t. Because of their lack of exposure, they are functionally deaf to the difference between R and L sounds.

Once at CLEO, Cornell, I was talking to this Japanese-American intern at our experiment. This kid, of course, had no accent (by which I mean he had an American accent). We were discussing a highly-placed and extremely smart Japanese colleague of ours, who did have an accent. Kanak-kanak itu memberitahu saya bahawa lelaki Jepun yang lebih tua tidak cukup berusaha untuk kehilangan aksennya,,en,Saya terlalu muda pada masa itu untuk menyedari bahawa dia sebenarnya mengeluh dengan loghat saya,,en,dan kekurangan industri saya dalam kehilangannya,,en,Setelah belajar bahasa Inggeris di India daripada guru India,,en,Saya menggunakan aksen dalam bahasa yang cukup tebal untuk Russell Peters menjadikan saya teka-teki leluconnya,,en,Pendedahan yang berpanjangan terhadap fonem asli di negara lain mungkin telah melancarkan beberapa masalah kasar dalam ucapan saya,,en,tetapi fonem yang hilang masih ada,,en,dan memerlukan usaha sedar untuk mensimulasikannya semasa bercakap,,en,Tetapi saya suka saya tidak lagi tuli kepada mereka,,en,Saya memang mendengar perbezaan antara kata V dan W,,en,dan S dan Z hampir sepanjang masa ini,,en. I was too young at that time to realize that he was in fact complaining about my accent, and my lack of industry in losing it.

Having learned English in India from Indian teachers, I sport an accent in the language thick enough for Russell Peters to make me the butt of his jokes. Prolonged exposures to native phonemes in other countries may have smoothed out some of the rough edges in my speech, but the missing phonemes are still missing, and it takes a conscious effort to simulate them while speaking. But I fancy I’m no longer totally deaf to them; I do hear the difference between say V and W, and S and Z most of the time these days. I mean, tidaklah setiap hari saya menganggap diri saya berkata,,en,Malang sekali,,en,tetapi saya masih sukar untuk memutuskan sama ada fasa-fasa bulan berlilin dan semakin berkurang,,en,atau vax dan baling-baling,,en,Dan orang Perancis,,en,Voila,,en,masih menjadi pembunuh,,en,Russell Peters,,en,dalam salah satu rancangannya,,en,tertanya-tanya mengapa penontonnya dari India ketawa mendengar gurauannya,,en,memandangkan garis pukulan biasanya melibatkan pukulan pada cara mereka bercakap,,en,Dia mengemukakan teori ini,,en,setiap orang India percaya bahawa dia sendiri tidak mempunyai aksen,,en,Mereka seolah-olah menganggap bahawa hanya ada satu orang India dengan aksen yang diketawakan oleh Mr Peters,,en,mungkin lelaki yang sama yang bersantai di depan pintu kapal terbang untuk memberikan aroma tanda selamat datang ke India itu,,en,Kata-katanya,,en,bukan kepunyaan saya,,en,kassy.miller,,en,Richard Feynman,,en,Sejauh Mana Kita Boleh Tahu,,en, “Wery vell,” but I still have a hard time deciding whether the phases of the moon wax and wane, or vax and vane. And the French “Voila” is still a killer.

Russell Peters, in one of his shows, wondered why his Indian audience laughed at his jokes, given that the punch line usually involved a poke at the way they speak. He came up with this theory — every Indian believes that he himself doesn’t have an accent. They seem to think that there is only one Indian with an accent that Mr Peters makes fun of, probably the same guy who shits in front of airplane doors to give that welcome-to-India signature aroma. His words, not mine.

Photo by kassy.miller cc

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